The Cuisinart food processor, the machine that started it all in 1973, would have fit the description of a "miracle" machine then except for the fact that it couldn't beat egg whites. Its reputation changed slightly a few years ago when cookbook author and food processor columnist Abby Mandel discovered and introduced a method for beating egg whites for satisfactory use in certain recipes, such as spongecakes, mousses, souffles, waffles and fluffy omelets.
The method involved processing the whites with the metal blade for about eight seconds, pouring white vinegar (used as a stabilizer) and water (about one tablespoon each of vinegar and water for six to eight egg whites in most cases) through the feed tube, then processing further for about two minutes or until the whites held their shape. Although the egg whites did not produce high, stiff peaks, they could be "beaten" to smooth, soft peaks, a texture that allowed easy incorporation with the rest of the ingredients.
That egg-white breakthrough still fell short of enabling the food processor to make meringues.
Today, the Cuisinart food processor with all its useful accessories may be close to being whole in function with the introduction of its new orbiting whisk attachment. Initially developed for the DLC-7 series, the Cuisinart Whisk Attachment will soon be available for other Cuisinart food processors: the DLC-8, DLC-10 and DLC-X series. The attachment consists of a central power unit encased in a sturdy-looking white plastic arm, two stainless-steel whisks and an adapter. Shaped like a tube, the plastic adapter connects the power unit to the shaft of the processor after the work bowl has been placed on the base.
The two whisks, which can be ejected from the underside openings in the power unit, rotate rapidly as the unit slowly circulates around the work bowl, an interesting process to watch.
Whips Cream to Soft Peaks
Aside from beating egg whites or whole eggs, the whisk attachment whips cream to soft or stiff peaks and makes fluffy mashed potatoes. But since the whisks are not as powerful as a regular beater and the unit is not designed to incorporate air as much as other techniques, one doesn't get as much volume and stiffness in the mixture being whipped.
On the positive side, however, there is less danger of overbeating to the dry stage. In many recipe cases, such as those mentioned earlier, a smoother, softly peaked mixture is favorable for folding properly into batters or other mixtures.
Although not as great as heavy-duty electric mixers, the new whisk attachment is satisfactory for most functions, but assembly of parts is poor and cumbersome, based on our experience. Insertion and ejection of the whisks into the arm base is an easy task, but locking the adapter into the shaft and removing it after use requires correct angling techniques, which takes some effort and practice. The whisk comes with an accompanying illustrated instruction booklet with safety precautions and a collection of recipes.
While Cuisinart has been busy launching the new whisk attachment for its food processor, Germany's Braun has been "sitting pretty" for several years with the success of its own whisk version in the European market. In Europe, the whisk is being sold as a separately ordered attachment for Braun's various food processor models, and in this country it comes as a standard with the Multipractic Plus UK-20 electronic food processor.
The Braun whisk attachment consists of one whole unit featuring a whisk arm and a single four-pronged whisk. It is much simpler to use than the Cuisinart's, as one simply slips the arm onto the motor spindle or shaft of the processor. The motor unit also circles slowly around the work bowl while the whisk rotates rapidly.
One big plus in the Multipractic unit is its variable electronic speed control for whipping as well as for every other processing job. With the speed control and constant load factor, delicate ingredients can be gently folded in at a lower speed.
In the Multipractic Plus UK-20 electronic food processor unit, an extra small plastic bowl that fits in the working bowl is included, which helps in whipping small quantities of egg or cream and comes in handy if you want a clean bowl. The bowl also comes with a cover for storing leftover cream, for instance. Aside from tools for the whisk functions, the 400-watt-motored Multipractic unit is a complete food-processing system equipped with chopping blade, four discs for thin/thick shred, thin/thick slice, grating and making French fries, as well as a spatula and recipe booklet.
Although both the Cuisinart and Braun machines are built with safety features, time should be spent in reading directions carefully before using any unit, not only for successful operation but to avoid any safety hazards.
The Cuisinart Whisk Attachment (Model DLC-055) has a suggested retail price of $39.50; the Braun Multipractic Plus UK-20 Electronic Food Processor, $129.95. The units are generally available at major department stores and gourmet shops.